Daily Water Intake
We have all heard that water is very important for good health and know that it is essential to life, but how much we are supposed to consume still remains a mystery to some of us. Drink til you drop, drink only once you are thirsty, or what? The following paragraphs will help clear up the confusion, and tempt you to reach for a glass of the clear, cold stuff.
Recommended Daily Water Intake
There is no formula that works for everyone, according to the Mayo Clinic. But we do know that water is extremely important for your body to be able to operate at its best. Water carries nutrients through your body, flushes away toxins from your organs, and provides moisture for your eyes, mouth, and nose. The Institute of Medicine suggests for men consume an average of 3.0 liters a day
, which is about 13 cups of water, and women consume an average of 2.2 liters a day, which is about 9 cups of water. That amount increases with higher altitude, hot or humid climates, exercise, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. For every hour that you exercise, you should consume about 2-3 additional cups of water, according to the American Dietetic Association. Pregnant women need to consume 2.4 liters per day to accomodate for her increased vascular flow, and breastfeeding women need to consume a total of 3.0 liters per day due to the large amounts of fluid lost in breastfeeding. Also, if you are sick or running a fever, your body will lose additional fluids, thus you must replace them in order to help your immune system help your body fight the germs. If you need some flavor, especially welcome when we are sick, clear and non-caffeinated beverages are acceptable. Food accounts for about 20% of our daily water intake, and even more if your diet is high in fresh fruits and vegetables.
Tap water versus bottled water
Is it really necessary to buy bottled water in order to receive the highest quality of water and prevent impurities from entering our bodies? Well, it depends on where you are getting the water. If you are traveling abroad, the tap water might not agree with your system. But if you are getting water out of your sink at home, it is perfectly acceptable almost all of the time to drink that water instead of dishing out $3.00 or more for bottled water. Hinckley Springs and other commercial bottled water companies offer home delivery service with a comparable price that you may prefer over bringing home gallons from your grocery store, with the added convenience of delivery. There are many good filter pitchers that you can buy for your home, such as Brita or Pur, if you want better tasting water and the convenience of having filtered water at your fingertips. They even make refridgerator-sized dispensers which hold up to 3 gallons. Home filters are usually a much more cost effective method for fresh, filtered water than buying water at convenience stores and coffee shops.
Water or Sports Drinks?
Is it necessary to drink Gatorade or other sports drinks to hydrate after an intense workout? If you are training for an endurance race such as a marathon, it is a good idea to drink a sports drink
to balance your electrolytes and give your body a few extra calories to keep it operating at peak condition. Otherwise, water is all your body really needs
if you are working out for an hour or less, unless you are in an extrememly hot enviornment and sweating enough to soak through your shirt. A drink containing sodium will help replace sodium lost in sweat and reduce the chances of developing hyponatremia, which can be life-threatening. There are many different drinks on the market which have electrolytes, vitamins, and/or sucrose for added energy to give you an extra boost with your beverage besides just re-hydrating you. Besides the well-known brand Gatorade, you may want to try Powerade, Propel, Accelerade, Cytomax, or Celaryte. Some of these come in powder forms so can easily be carried with you to the gym or on the trail, then you can add water when you are ready to drink it. That way, they cannot spoil and mold once exposed to air.
Dehydration and its consequences
Being only 1% dehydrated (1% of your body weight) can drain your energy and make you feel lethargic-not the best way to feel if you are trying to get anything accomplished. Additional signs of dehydration are dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, little or no urination, muscle cramps and weakness. Most cases of dehydration can be eliminated by drinking enough fluids, but in severe cases, fluids may need to be delivered intravenously. It is especially dangerous for very young children or the elderly to get dehydrated. As adults get older, your thirst mechanism begins to shut down, so it becomes very easy to become dehydrated since you do not feel the sensation of thirst. For everyone, once you feel thirsty, it is a sign that you are already somewhat dehydrated and should stop to get some water.
Being only 1% dehydrated can drain your energy and make you feel lethargic.
It is possible, though rare, to be overhydrated, and the consequences can actually be life-threatening.
Marathoners, long distance runners who can lose up to 5 or 6 pounds of fluid in one race even while drinking at several water and Gatorade stops, have been known to over-do it with their water intake for fear of dehydrating. Basically, if you are exercising and hear or feel water sloshing around in your stomach or it causes you to cramp, you are probably drinking a little too much. Take sips of water every 15 minutes. If you drink too much water, your kidneys will be unable to excrete the excess fluid, and the electrolyte (mineral) level of your blood is diluted. This results in a condition known as hyponatremia. Dr. Adner, the medical director for the Boston Marathon, explained hyponatremia in an article in the New York Times, stating "as people keep drinking...the extra water moves into their cells, including brain cells. The engorged brain cells, with no room to expand, press against the skull and can compress the brain stem, which controls vital functions like breathing. The result can be fatal." So, drink 2-3 cups upon arising the day of your endurance race, then take small sips every 15 minutes during the race. Consume sodium after the race and continue hydrating throughout the day to replace fluids lost and help your muscles with recovery.
Water, water, water
So now that you know you need water every day, and a lot of it, you should have no problem getting the recommended amount, right? Some people however don't love the crisp, clean taste of plain water. If water bores you and you just can't drink it plain, try it iced, as decaf tea, with lemon, lime, or even cucumber (it is actually quite refreshing!), use a straw, or add one of those new fandangled single-serve packets of powder that recently hit the market. Some are tea and others are Crystal Light type drinks with very little sugar and lots of flavor. Soda with caffeine, as well as coffee and tea, have a dehydrating effect, therefore do not count as your water intake. So, if you have a 16 ounce coffee, you have to have another 16 ounces of water just to get you back on track towards hydration. And if you find yourself with a few empty pint glasses or wine goblets at your table, reach for the water before retiring for the night, since alcohol also has a dehydrating effect on your body. Your body will thank you for it the next day.
Enjoy your water, and go fill up your glass.